A Belfast man who served 13 years in prison for a murder he always denied was cleared yesterday by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
His voice breaking with emotion, Mr Thomas Green (38) said: "I am relieved it's all over at long last." Of his lost years, he said: "It's hard to do that for something you didn't do."
Mr Green, a Protestant from the Ballysillan area of north Belfast, was convicted of the sectarian murder of Catholic painter John O'Neill (25) who was battered to death with concrete blocks after visiting a loyalist club. His body was dumped in a nearby river.
Mr Green, who always maintained his innocence and claimed his confession was forced out of him, lost an appeal and was in prison until 1999 when he was freed under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission, set up to investigate miscarriages of justice, took up the case and succeeded in getting it referred back to the Appeal Court.
In a sensational development yesterday, the Crown did not oppose the appeal. The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Carswell, said: "It is quite clear we allow the appeal but we prefer to express our conclusions in writing in a reserved judgment later."
Mr Green's solicitor, Mr Joe Rice, said he had been instructed to seek compensation "for the 13 years my client was incarcerated". He added: "I am delighted the Crown did not oppose the appeal and I am also delighted for Mr Green and his family."
New medical evidence from Prof Vincent Marks, professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Surrey, led to the Crown's decision.
Mr Arthur Harvey QC, defending, told the court the new evidence showed that when Mr Green was interviewed at Castlereagh he was suffering from hypoglycaemia as a result of the reduction in glucose levels in his blood.
"A person in that state may be totally unaware of their surroundings and what is happening and would be unreliable to the point of being worthless," said Mr Harvey.
He said this meant that the alleged confession was factually unreliable and totally worthless.
Mr Harvey said it was no one's fault that the court was unaware of Mr Green's condition at his trial. "It was simply a lack of knowledge in 1986 of the actual consequences of hypoglycaemia," he said.
Mr Green's appeal had been delayed by the trial of two detectives who were cleared last October on charges of perjury arising out of their evidence at his trial in 1986.